It is early. It is still dark. The hillside that extends up to the left of my vision is a collection of lights: the same ones repeating in a jagged pattern, streetlights marking bus stops and intersections, one is flickering; bright floodlights shining from entryways; and soft square lights glowing from windows, that blink on as the world starts to wake up. So much to be seen on a hillside still invisible in the darkness. I fill in the gaps that I cannot see yet from memory, not the kind of memory that would be reliable to identify a witness, but the fuzzy kind that would remember there was a tree there only after it got cut down and you stand there looking at the gap wondering what was different. Or the kind of memory that visits a street it used to live on and knowing a storefront had changed but not remembering what had been there before—had it been that coffee shop or that Chinese restaurant you never went to?
I’m not a very natural morning person. Mostly because it’s hard for me to shut off at night, and so going to bed early enough to be a morning person is difficult.
So why have I started to experiment this week with “being a writer” from five to seven every morning?
Well, I’d much rather “be a writer” from nine to eleven, but there’s that whole day job thing.
I could maybe “be a writer” at night, ending my day with words and creativity, keeping to my circadian rhythm that gives me a burst of productivity later at night. As much as my tendency would be to be a night owl, by the end of the day my brain is hard to pull in from the swirling vortex it enters after a day of work and dinner with J and drinks with friends and volunteering and reading the news and all those other things that pop up in the evenings.
There is one time of day when no one is asking anything of me. When there is nowhere to be, nothing to do. When I can delay the inevitable flurry of life by shutting off the internet and keeping my thoughts in the present. When I can create a cocoon where input is at a minimum and I can allow thoughts to bubble around, catching them as they wake up, gently placing them onto the page. A sacred space where it is just unencumbered Writer Erin, who is a delicate entity easily distracted by emails and people and to-do lists, but who will flourish if she is given permission to just be, without agenda and without judgment, for two hours every morning (ok, she can sleep in on the weekends).
Even though I have never been a natural morning person, I have always felt safe and hopeful in the early hours, as the sky blossoms into dawn, the energy of the world calm as people sleep. There have been times of my life when waking early meant I’d be up for a run, just me and my breath and my footsteps echoing in my ears, senses heightened in the dark but also myopic to only that which is immediately around me, honed in on a very small bundle of atoms but with the knowledge that the universe is very big.
Writing is less obviously physical but it can still bring me to that place of clarity and knowing. This small bundle of atoms can produce words which are ethereal and expansive. My breath, my words, releasing into the universe as the world wakes up, unfettered by what should be, free to explore under the cover of night, tinged with the hope that comes with the dawn.